Tag Archives: George Creel

Reporter vs. reporter: Part 1, President’s envoy?

This four-part series details the 1920 confrontation between American journalists Carl Ackerman and Charles Grasty as they covered the war in Ireland. In addition to their published reporting, it includes research from the Library of Congress, New York Public Library, and other sources. It is part of my ongoing exploration of American Reporting of Irish Independence. MH © 2024

Special passport

“News from Ireland … has been anything but dull and desultory; it has bristled with violence and bulged with rumblings of impending bloodshed on a widespread scale.”

As the Irish insurgency against British rule entered its second year, more American journalists grabbed their notebooks and traveled to Erin. There was plenty to write about in 1920. As one U.S. correspondent explained in an op-ed for The New York Times:

Events of the utmost significance are crowding upon one other so rapidly in Ireland at the present time that it is frequently difficult to assess any or all of them at their true relative value or to discern their precise cause and effect beyond, of course, the daily generalization that the situation is still more serious and nearer a calamitous climax. Every day the first pages of the newspapers contribute further complexities to this age-old and bitterest of modern political dramas. News, as such, coming from Ireland for weeks and months past has been anything but dull and desultory; it has bristled with violence and bulged with rumblings of impending bloodshed on a widespread scale.[1]Truman H. Talley, “Sinn Fein’s Provocative Martyrdom”, The New York Times, Aug. 29, 1920.

In addition to writing their first-page dispatches for U.S. newspapers, a few journalists also worked behind the scenes to help resolve the Anglo-Irish War. They shuttled messages between rebel leaders and the British government or huddled with U.S. government officials in London and Dublin. Some did this out of a sense of civic duty, others simply to get an edge on their competitors. When these private actions occasionally surfaced in public, it impacted the political negotiations and perceptions of the news coverage from Ireland.

A remarkable example of this occurred in June 1920. Carl W. Ackerman, the London-based chief of the Philadelphia Public Ledger foreign news service, reported that a prominent American newsman had come to Ireland on mission for U.S. President Woodrow Wilson.

Ackerman’s June 1, 1920, story mentioned Grasty in the fourth paragraph.

“One of the most significant, undoubtedly, of all the recent developments in the Irish situation is the arrival in Dublin of Charles H. Grasty … a well-known journalist, a member of the staff of The New York Times, was frequently during the (First World) war an observer for the president,” Ackerman wrote. Grasty “is in confidential communication with the White House, and probability is that the president has followed his war custom of commissioning some journalist to make a special investigation for him, while ostensibly representing an American newspaper.”[2]“President Wilson Has Special Envoy In Ireland Now”, Brooklyn (N.Y.) Daily Eagle, June 1, 1920.

Ackerman was correct that Wilson had previously used journalists as his personal scouts to foreign hot spots, including Ireland. The president sent pioneering muckraker Ray Stannard Baker (McClue’s and American magazines) there during the spring 1918 conscription crisis and widening divisions between pro-British unionists and Irish republicans. “The extreme Ulsterman, it seemed to me, was exactly matched by the extreme Sinn Feiner, both for themselves alone,” Baker wrote years later. “There seemed to be no spirit of give and take: no desire anywhere for what Mr. Wilson called accommodation.”[3]Ray Stannard Baker, American Chronicle; The Autobiography of Ray Stannard Baker. [David Grayson] (Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1945). See, “A Rebellious Ireland And My Report of … Continue reading

Wilson also dispatched George Creel to Ireland in early 1919, shortly after the establishment of Dáil Éireann. Creel (Kansas City World, Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News) had just finished his duties as head of the U.S. government’s Committee for Public Information during the Great War. In a March 1, 1919, memorandum to Wilson, he described the Irish in Ireland as more politically practical than the Irish in America. Creel said that Sinn Fein‘s December 1918 election success had finished off the 40-year-old Irish home rule movement. He believed Ireland would accept dominion status, like Canada, if offered quickly. Otherwise, popular sentiment would harden in favor of an Irish republic. Creel also warned Wilson of British Prime Minister David Lloyd George’s duplicity and stressed that a settlement would help placate the Irish in America, with positive implications for domestic politics.[4]George Creel, Rebel at Large, (New York, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1947), pp. 216-22, and Creel, The War, The World, and Wilson, (New York, Harper & Brothers, 1920), p 202.

U.S. State Department officials stamped “SPECIAL” on Grasty’s passport on April 8, 1920, a week before he boarded the White Star liner RMS Baltic to cross the Atlantic. “Editor,” Grasty answered the ship’s officer who asked for his occupation and recorded it in the manifest without any indication of special diplomatic status. The Baltic arrived at Liverpool, England, on April 27.[5]The National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Board of Trade: Commercial and Statistical Department and successors: Inwards Passenger Lists.; Class: BT26; Piece: 669. “Mr. Grasty admitted at the time, when questioned by customs officials, that he was on a special appointment by President Wilson,” Ackerman wrote in his June 1 story.

Then 57, Grasty had enjoyed a successful career as a newspaper publisher and executive. He moved to London during the First World War and worked as an emeritus correspondent for several U.S. publications, including the Times. His dispatches typically blended news reporting and editorializing, with strong opinions about the role of the press in America and the U.S. government in international affairs.

Charles H. Grasty, passport image from at least 1918.

Grasty had been in the United States on a lecture tour in early 1920. He was scheduled to deliver a speech titled “The New Balance of Power” during a mid-April business convention in Des Moines, Iowa. His sudden withdrawal from the event indicates the haste of his return to Europe, which also at least partially explains his special passport.[6]“Iowa Business Congress Draws Big Business Men” by Associated Press, Webster City (Iowa) Freeman, April 12, 1920, and “Business Congress To Open Tomorrow”, Des Moines Register, April 13, 1920.

Aboard the Baltic, Grasty used some of his time to write a letter to Times owner Adolph Ochs about proposed changes to the paper’s news and advertising layout. Grasty divided five pages of ship’s stationary into two typewritten columns: pros on the left side, cons on the right. Making any changes to the newspaper risked disrupting “the habits of the devoted reader,” he warned Ochs. “A paper like the Times has a personality, and even if there are some ugly points, the reader comes to like them with the rest.”[7]Charles H. Grasty to Adolph Ochs, “On board RMS Baltic,” April 22, 1920, with handwritten note dated April 28, 1920, London, at bottom, in Ochs papers, New York Public Library.

Ackerman’s source

Grasty apparently also found time during the 11-day crossing to converse with his fellow first-class passengers. Among them: Ackerman’s wife, Mabel, traveling with the couple’s young son. “He came over on the Baltic with Mrs. Ackerman and told her that he was on such a mission,” the London bureau chief alerted his Philadelphia editor, John J. Spurgeon, a week before the story about Grasty appeared in the Public Ledger and its affiliated newspapers. “He had a diplomatic passport and said that he intended to remain in London one week and then go ‘somewhere else.’ ”[8]Ackerman to Spurgeon, May 25, 1920. Carl W. Ackerman papers, Library of Congress, Box 131, Miscellaneous correspondence, London, England.

Carl Ackerman, 1920.

Ackerman told Spurgeon that he contacted London-based U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain John W. Davis to ask about Grasty’s mission to Ireland. The ambassador claimed he didn’t know anything about it.

During his first weeks back in Europe Grasty kept busy writing about ongoing efforts to recover from the Great War. He filed a May 1 dispatch from Paris about the just-concluded San Remo conference in Italy.[9]”Germans Must Act on Terms of Pact at Spa Conference”, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 2, 1920. In another story he reported that Americans in Europe were taking “keen interest” in the warming U.S. presidential race back home.[10]“Yankees Abroad Closely Watch Politics in U.S.”, Chicago Tribune, May 10, 1920. And in a long opinion piece from London, Grasty insisted: “The United States is in greater danger today than at the time of the German offensive in March 1918. … The feeling in Europe against America has grown, as the feeling in America against Europe has grown.”[11]“Why Europe Must Be Cured To Keep America Safe”, The New York Times, June 13, 1920.

He dated the story June 1, the same day he was named in Ackerman’s dispatch, though Grasty’s piece was not published until several weeks later.

Grasty also had visited Ireland during the last week of May. He “tea’d & supped” in Dublin with Sir Horace Plunkett, the Irish agricultural reformer and home rule supporter wrote in his diary.[12]May 26, 1920, Diary of Sir Horace Curzon Plunkett, Transcribed, annotated and indexed by Kate Targett. December 2012, National Library of Ireland. The two men had known each other for years. “Wherever he goes he makes friends through his gentle optimism and sturdy character,” Grasty wrote in his 1918 book, Flashes from the Front. “For British patriot that he is, he is an Irishman to his heart’s core. His life has been a labor of love for Ireland.”[13]Charles H. Grasty, Flashes from the Front, (New York, The Century Co., 1918.), pp. 136-139.

Grasty would barely mention Plunkett in his subsequent reporting about Ireland. It appears the correspondent stayed there for about a week and limited his travel to the island’s two major cities. “If I had to choose a place of residence, I would prefer Dublin with all its shootings to Belfast with its grimness and monotony,” he wrote in one of his stories.[14]”Ulster Men Look For Future Union”, The New York Times, Aug. 17, 1920.

The June 1 publication of Ackerman’s story about Grasty, more than a month after the Times correspondent walked down the Baltic’s gangway in Liverpool, makes more sense in the context of the late May visit. And as the Ackerman’s story proves, he was doing his own reporting about Ireland, including reaching out to Plunkett and other insiders.

NEXT: London confrontations

References

References
1 Truman H. Talley, “Sinn Fein’s Provocative Martyrdom”, The New York Times, Aug. 29, 1920.
2 “President Wilson Has Special Envoy In Ireland Now”, Brooklyn (N.Y.) Daily Eagle, June 1, 1920.
3 Ray Stannard Baker, American Chronicle; The Autobiography of Ray Stannard Baker. [David Grayson] (Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1945). See, “A Rebellious Ireland And My Report of What I Saw”, p. 337.
4 George Creel, Rebel at Large, (New York, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1947), pp. 216-22, and Creel, The War, The World, and Wilson, (New York, Harper & Brothers, 1920), p 202.
5 The National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Board of Trade: Commercial and Statistical Department and successors: Inwards Passenger Lists.; Class: BT26; Piece: 669.
6 “Iowa Business Congress Draws Big Business Men” by Associated Press, Webster City (Iowa) Freeman, April 12, 1920, and “Business Congress To Open Tomorrow”, Des Moines Register, April 13, 1920.
7 Charles H. Grasty to Adolph Ochs, “On board RMS Baltic,” April 22, 1920, with handwritten note dated April 28, 1920, London, at bottom, in Ochs papers, New York Public Library.
8 Ackerman to Spurgeon, May 25, 1920. Carl W. Ackerman papers, Library of Congress, Box 131, Miscellaneous correspondence, London, England.
9 ”Germans Must Act on Terms of Pact at Spa Conference”, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 2, 1920.
10 “Yankees Abroad Closely Watch Politics in U.S.”, Chicago Tribune, May 10, 1920.
11 “Why Europe Must Be Cured To Keep America Safe”, The New York Times, June 13, 1920.
12 May 26, 1920, Diary of Sir Horace Curzon Plunkett, Transcribed, annotated and indexed by Kate Targett. December 2012, National Library of Ireland.
13 Charles H. Grasty, Flashes from the Front, (New York, The Century Co., 1918.), pp. 136-139.
14 ”Ulster Men Look For Future Union”, The New York Times, Aug. 17, 1920.

Selling Irish history & politics books: Hackett & Creel

In November 1922 journalist Francis Hackett wrote a letter to his brother, Edmond Byrne Hackett, to complain about the poor sales of The Story of the Irish Nation, which The Century Co. had published in March. “The Irish book sold 1,143 copies. Awful,” the author wrote. “Two people could help to sell it. One is George Creel, who sold his own book and knows the machinery. The other, Miss Lucile Erskine, worked to sell Ireland for Ben Huebsch.”[1]Francis Hackett to Byrne Hackett, Nov. 16, 1922, in Brick Row Book Shop records (New York, N.Y.), 1913-2015, Box 63, Folder 1. The Grolier Club. Assistance and digital scans provided July 18, 2022, … Continue reading

Ben Huebsch in 1918 passport photo.

Huebsch, a New York City publisher, released Hackett’s Ireland, A Study in Nationalism in 1918, a year before Creel’s Ireland’s Fight for Freedom arrived from Harper & Brothers. Many similar books competed for the attention and dollars of American readers during Ireland’s revolutionary period. Author and critic Edmond Lester Pearson included both the Hackett and Creel books in his November 1919 roundup of Irish titles for the Weekly Review. He described Hackett’s book as a “moderate” account of contemporary conditions, while Creel’s was a “vehement attack upon England,” quoting from a New York Times review.[2]Ireland”, The Weekly Review, Nov. 15, 1919. See “Mr. Creel’s View on Matters Connected with Ireland’s Fight for Freedom”, The New York Times, Aug. 10, 1919.

As with today’s instant political books, the success or failure of this genre usually depends on a combination of reviews and advertising, the author’s personal promotion, and how quickly or slowly new developments age the content between the covers. Creel and Hackett are good examples. I’ll take the former first.

U.S. President Woodrow Wilson sent Creel to Ireland in February 1919 after Sinn Féin candidates elected to the British Parliament in December 1918 instead convened as Dáil Éireann in Dublin. Creel had just finished his duties as head of the Committee for Public Information, the Great War propaganda arm of the American government. His report to Wilson said the Irish separatists would accept some form of dominion status, but only if granted within the next few months. Otherwise, Creel insisted that hardline republican sentiment would take hold.[3]Francis M. Carroll, American opinion and the Irish question, 1910-23 : a study in opinion and policy, Dublin : New York, Gill and Macmillan ; St. Martin’s Press, 1978, p. 196.

George Creel in 1917.

Creel, an American journalist before he took the Wilson administration post, serialized his views about Ireland through the New York Sunday American, and an article in Leslie’s weekly. Ireland’s Fight for Freedom debuted in July 1919. The author described the 250-page book, “this little volume,” as designed to “furnish the facts upon which an honest and intelligent answer” could be found to the Irish question.[4]George Creel, Ireland’s Fight for Freedom, Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York, 1919, p. xiv.

Creel became “one of the more unlikely Irish apologist,” historian Francis M. Carroll has written. As part of the book promotion, Creel spoke at Irish Progressive League meetings. But he also continued to support Wilson, the League of Nations, and criticized several Irish American leaders.[5]American opinion, p. 144.  This drew an attack from the New York City-based Gaelic American, which republished Creel’s Leslie’s piece, then blasted it as “an absurd and fantastic misrepresentation of the Irish movement in America.”[6]George Creel Attacks Irish American Leaders”, The Gaelic American, Aug. 16, 1919, p 3.

A Study in Nationalism

The Hackett brothers each emigrated from Kilkenny at the turn of the 20th century. As Francis pursued a journalism and literary career, Byrne became a bibliophile, eventually opening shops in New York City and near the campuses of Yale and Princeton universities in Connecticut and New Jersey, respectively. Both brothers corresponded with Ben Huebsch, whose papers are held at the Library of Congress. Letters from Francis, the younger sibling, date to 1907, when he was a reporter and editorial writer at the Chicago Evening Post.

Ireland: A Study in Nationalism developed when Francis returned home in 1912-13 to care for his ailing father. It took him years to complete. He wrote to Huebsch from Kilkenny:

I have completed no work yet. Time dissolves like snow in Ireland. The hours are like flakes falling into a river. They disappear with an appalling softness.[7]F. Hackett to B Huebsch, Nov. 11, 1912, from 20 Patrick St., Kilkenny, Ireland, in Ben Huebsch Papers, Library of Congress.

Hackett nevertheless gave his publisher an assessment of Ireland two years before Parliament passed the Government of Ireland Act, then immediately suspend it due to outbreak of world war on the continent:

Home Rule is taken for granted already, and the Nationalists are tired of it all. Ireland is in a bad way with the Catholics in control of education and with no conscious about it. … Catholicism is ruining us. It favors our tendency to follow the line of least resistance, to repress and to negative. Ireland is comparatively crimeless, comparatively harmless. It gets drunk, men and women, and it backbites a lot, but it is negatived (sic) by the church.

Economically, the land acts favor the farmer, but the farmer is abysmally ignorant and conservative. He is Ireland, and his soul will have to be ripped up, plowed, harrowed, before anything can happen. And it will be a long fight.[8]Ibid.

When Hackett finally delivered the manuscript to Huebsch, the author wrote:

This book, finished since conscription was enacted (January 1916, in Britain) has been in hand for four years. It’s aim is to tell Americans the facts in the Irish case, the explanation of those facts, and a way of reconstruction. Besides being critical, it aims to be impartially informative, so that the Americans may judge the case for itself, on the merits.[9]Undated, unaddressed page with chapter headings similar to those in published book. The handwriting is consistent with other letters from F. Hackett, though I am not a handwriting expert. Huebsch … Continue reading

Huebsch did not publish Ireland until 1918. The reason for the delay is unclear, though it might have been related to the April 1916 Rising in Dublin, which left Hackett disenchanted.[10]Thomas J. Rowland, “The American Catholic Pres And The Easter Rising” in Ireland’s Allies: American and the 1916 Easter Rising, Miriam Nyhan Grey, ed., University College Dublin … Continue reading At last, he dedicated the book to his late father, “who loved and served Ireland.” The author soon began lecturing about Ireland in Chicago, Boston, and other cities. “In fact, demand for addresses on the subject are so numerous that were it not for his duties as an editor at the New Republic, Mr. Hackett could spend most of his time on the platform,” Publisher’s Weekly reported.[11]”Personal Notes”, The Publisher’s Weekly, April 12, 1919, p. 1011.

Other Ireland books

As noted above, the market for Irish books was crowded. In his 1919 roundup, Pearson also identified as pro-nationalist P. S. O’Hegarty’s Sinn Fein, an Illumination, (Maunsel, 1919); Francis P. Jones’s History of the Sinn Fein Movement and the Irish Rebellion of 1916, (Kenedy, 1917); and Shane Leslie’s The Irish Issue in its American Aspects (Scribner, 1917), “a brilliant discussion by a moderate Sinn Feiner.” For the “British and Unionist point of view,” Pearson recommended Phillip G. Cambray’s Irish Affairs and the Home Rule Question, (Murray, 1911) and Ian Hay’s The Oppressed English, (Doubleday, 1917).

But “for one book, if you can read but one,” the reviewer recommended Edward R. Turner’s Ireland and England in the Past and Present, (Century, 1919). In Pearson’s view, the University of Michigan professor of European history “tried to write an impartial study of the whole question. … He truly says that in America the whole question is usually discussed by extremists, and, of course, extremists will not like his book.”

True enough, as Pearson’s Weekly Review piece spread more widely through daily newspaper syndication, Turner’s book was savaged by the Irish National Bureau, the Washington, D.C.-based propaganda operation of the Friends of Irish Freedom. The Bureau published a 16-page pamphlet that declared the purpose of Turner’s book was:

…to induce American people to take the views of a certain class of English imperialist, to induce them to look kindly on a surrender of all those principals and purposes for which they poured out blood and treasure in the late war, to lead them to look with favor on English world-hegemony. In the pages of this book liberty, self-determination, independence seem to be matters for contempt, for ridicule, for things loathsome and to be avoided.[12]Daniel T. O’Connell, “Edmund Raymond Turner of the University of Michigan: Apostle and Apologist of Reaction,” Irish National Bureau, Washington, D.C., December 1919.

Two years later Turner engaged in a series of U.S. newspaper editorial page “debates” with Mary MacSwiney, sister of hunger strike martyr Terence MacSwiney, as she toured America on behalf of the Irish republic. The professor dodged the challenge of a live platform confrontation with the activist.[13]Joanne Mooney Eichacker, Irish Republican Women In America, Lecture Tours, 1916-1925 (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2003) pp. 116, 121. See “The Irish Problem Is Debated”, The Cincinnati … Continue reading

Hackett’s second book

In 1920, more than a year after the first Dáil and the war in Ireland growing more brutal, Hackett released an Irish Republic Editionof Study in Nationalism. While he originally favored dominion home rule, his later editions “bent the argument to support independence,” Carroll has written.[14]American opinion, p. 236. Hackett cited Creel’s book in the bibliography of his Irish edition. That summer, Hackett returned to Ireland for a reporting trip with his wife, Danish writer and illustrator Signe Toksvig. They witnessed British police and military atrocities and other impacts of the war.

Francis Hackett in 1935.

When they arrived back in America, Hackett wrote an October 1920 syndicated newspaper series and articles for the New Republic based on his observations. “A great change has taken place in the morale of the Irish people since I last visited here in 1913,” he wrote. “The pre-war Ireland is gone, never to return.”[15]“Erin Prosperous Writes Hackett”, Boston Post, Oct. 5, 1920. Hackett and his wife also testified before the pro-nationalist American Committee on Conditions in Ireland in November 1920.

By spring 1921, shortly before the truce, Hackett was thinking about a new Irish book. He wrote to Huebsch with a proposal to repurpose some content from A Study in Nationalism:

I don’t want to urge you to take it, and I can understand your feeling disinclined to do it, but if Ireland is petering out I want you to let me use whatever of the material I can and see if I can’t get out another book, and take my chance somewhere else. This won’t effect my feelings about you as publisher and as friend, but I feel I’m a fool not to sow another Irish crop–if necessary in fresh ground.[16]F. Hackett to B Huebsch, May 4, 1921, Huebsch papers.

Hackett’s second Ireland book, Story of the Irish Nation, took shape as a 1922 series for the New York World. He detailed the long arc of the island’s troubled history rather than a rehash of his 1920 reporting and public testimony. He mailed another letter to Huebsch about getting $2,000 from the World, and he promised to repay a $500 debt to the publisher. Hackett also revealed his plans to turn the series into the second Ireland book:

I have decided to give the history to the Century Company. I have made no contract with them as yet but they want it. They are willing to give me all foreign rights and a flat 15%, and are willing to get behind it in a commercial way. I am going to try them on this in the hope we will clean up enough money to be able to go to Denmark (his wife’s homeland).”[17]F. Hackett to B Huebsch, Jan. 28, 1922, from New York City, Huebsch papers.

Century published Story of the Irish Nation in March. Reviewers generally praised the book that summer, including a full-page feature in the New York Times by American writer and diplomat Maurice Francis Egan.[18]”Happy Times and Dragon’s Teeth in Ireland”, The New York Times Book Review and Magazine, June 18, 1922. By November 1922, when Hackett wrote to his brother, conditions in Ireland were much different than when the book was published. The Irish Civil War, sparked by the Dáil’s split over the Anglo-Irish Treaty, erupted after the release. Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins both died in August, and IRA “irregulars” and Free State troops committed atrocities at least as worse as during the war against Britain.

Given the fratricide and the Irish Free State constitution set to take effect in December 1922, Francis suggested to Byrne that Story of the Irish Nation “might begin to move.” He lamented that Century, his new publisher, “has no invention, but is faithful and plodding.” He also believed, “The Catholics, the K. of C., the A.O.H., are the people who would buy my history if they ever got started.”[19]Francis Hackett to Byrne Hackett, Nov. 16, 1922, in Grolier Club archives. “K. of C.” is Knights of Columbus. “A.O.H.” is Ancient Order of Hibernians.

But Francis Hackett knew better. Only days before writing to his brother, he mailed a letter to Huebsch. Hackett wrote wrote: “My Irish history fell in between the Republic and Free State squarrel (sic) and got mashed to nothing.”[20]F. Hackett to B. Huebsch, Nov. 2, 1922, in Huebsch Papers.

***

See my American Reporting of Irish Independence series, which I am currently developing into a book. 

References

References
1 Francis Hackett to Byrne Hackett, Nov. 16, 1922, in Brick Row Book Shop records (New York, N.Y.), 1913-2015, Box 63, Folder 1. The Grolier Club. Assistance and digital scans provided July 18, 2022, by Meghan R. Constantinou, librarian, and Scott Ellwood.
2 Ireland”, The Weekly Review, Nov. 15, 1919. See “Mr. Creel’s View on Matters Connected with Ireland’s Fight for Freedom”, The New York Times, Aug. 10, 1919.
3 Francis M. Carroll, American opinion and the Irish question, 1910-23 : a study in opinion and policy, Dublin : New York, Gill and Macmillan ; St. Martin’s Press, 1978, p. 196.
4 George Creel, Ireland’s Fight for Freedom, Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York, 1919, p. xiv.
5 American opinion, p. 144.
6 George Creel Attacks Irish American Leaders”, The Gaelic American, Aug. 16, 1919, p 3.
7 F. Hackett to B Huebsch, Nov. 11, 1912, from 20 Patrick St., Kilkenny, Ireland, in Ben Huebsch Papers, Library of Congress.
8 Ibid.
9 Undated, unaddressed page with chapter headings similar to those in published book. The handwriting is consistent with other letters from F. Hackett, though I am not a handwriting expert. Huebsch Papers.
10 Thomas J. Rowland, “The American Catholic Pres And The Easter Rising” in Ireland’s Allies: American and the 1916 Easter Rising, Miriam Nyhan Grey, ed., University College Dublin Press, Dublin, 2016, p. 294.
11 ”Personal Notes”, The Publisher’s Weekly, April 12, 1919, p. 1011.
12 Daniel T. O’Connell, “Edmund Raymond Turner of the University of Michigan: Apostle and Apologist of Reaction,” Irish National Bureau, Washington, D.C., December 1919.
13 Joanne Mooney Eichacker, Irish Republican Women In America, Lecture Tours, 1916-1925 (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2003) pp. 116, 121. See “The Irish Problem Is Debated”, The Cincinnati Post, Feb. 10, 1921, and other papers.
14 American opinion, p. 236.
15 “Erin Prosperous Writes Hackett”, Boston Post, Oct. 5, 1920.
16 F. Hackett to B Huebsch, May 4, 1921, Huebsch papers.
17 F. Hackett to B Huebsch, Jan. 28, 1922, from New York City, Huebsch papers.
18 ”Happy Times and Dragon’s Teeth in Ireland”, The New York Times Book Review and Magazine, June 18, 1922.
19 Francis Hackett to Byrne Hackett, Nov. 16, 1922, in Grolier Club archives. “K. of C.” is Knights of Columbus. “A.O.H.” is Ancient Order of Hibernians.
20 F. Hackett to B. Huebsch, Nov. 2, 1922, in Huebsch Papers.

An American reporter in 1920 Ireland: Newspapers

Harry F. Guest

American journalist Harry F. Guest of the New York Globe spent January and February 1920 reporting from revolutionary Ireland. Upon his return to America, he wrote two dozen stories based on his interviews and observations, which were syndicated to U.S. and Canadian newspapers through May 1920. See earlier posts in this series and other stories about American reporting of Irish independence at the linked project landing page. Reader input is welcomed, including photos or links to relevant source material. For this post only, I’ve linked the headline to a .pdf copy of the story for newspaper historians.  MH

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British Suspension of Irish Newspapers Raised Great Storm of Protest1

Guest, a veteran New York City reporter and editor, devoted this story to the antagonism between foreign and domestic newspapers and the British administration in Ireland at Dublin Castle. He wrote:

Being a newspaper editor in Ireland is a ticklish job. If you publish something which offends Dublin Castle, the police or military raids your offices and carry away vital parts of the presses. If you criticize Sinn Féin too severely, your office is likely to be stormed and the presses smashed.

As a newspaper man, I have great respect for the Irish newspapers. When one which has been suppressed receives permission to resume publication, it is the custom to come out in the next issue with a blast against the government which makes the previous ‘libel’ read like a hymn of praise.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jan. 20, 1920

Guest again referenced the Defense of the Realm Act, or “Dora,” which he noted was used to exert “strict censorship not only over dispatches sent from Ireland, but foreign news sent to Ireland as well.” This may be why Guest waited until he returned to America before writing his series about Ireland, just as United Press correspondent Ralph F. Couch had done in early 1919 after his scoop interview with prison escapee Éamon de Valera.

Guest reported the mid-January 1920, Dublin post office seizures of the New York American, Irish World, and Gaelic American,2 with “thousands of copies … carried off to Dublin Castle” because they contained articles about the Irish bond drive in America. “This was not the first seizure of its kind in Ireland and it probably will not be the last,” he wrote.

It should be remembered that Britain was not the first or only democracy to censor or suppress the press. In America, the Committee of Public Information (CPI), created in April 1917 by President Woodrow Wilson, “became the U.S. ministry for propaganda,” and an “unofficial censor” of the domestic and foreign press. Journalist George Creel and the secretaries of State, Navy, and War ran the CPI, which worked with the U.S. Postal Service to block distribution of the New York-based Gaelic American and Irish World, and the Dublin-based Freeman’s Journal.3

Historian Ian Kenneally has explained the main political motivation for press censorship in Ireland was to keep the views and activities of the separatist Sinn Féin from Irish newspaper readers. He continued:

The situation worsened in September 1919 when the authorities in Dublin Castle abolished the post of censor. The decision was greeted by cynicism from the Irish press with newspaper editors deriding the fact that the censor may have gone but the restrictive regulations remained in place. A wave of newspaper suppressions swept the country. This was because the Irish press now had no censor to guide them as to what would be deemed unacceptable by Dublin Castle.4

Dublin Castle, the seat of the British administration in Ireland. Late 19th or early 20th century image. National Library of Ireland image.

By the time Guest arrived in Ireland in early 1920, more than two dozen Irish newspapers had been suppressed or had their foreign circulation banned for “a few days [or] longer periods,” he reported. The digital Irish Newspaper Archives contains 50 titles that published during 1920. An estimated 332 newspapers circulated in Ireland during the period 1900 to 1922, excluding British or American titles.5

Guest listed these papers as being suppressed:

Mayo News * Clare Champion * Newcastle-West Weekly Observer * Kings County Independent * Belfast Evening Telegraph * Dublin Evening Herald * Meath Chronicle * Galway Express * Ballina Herald * Killkenny People * Irish Republic * Southern Star (County Cork)

Freeman’s Journal nameplate

Most of Guest’s story detailed the December 1919 suppression of the Freeman’s Journal, which extended into January 1920. The action “aroused a storm of protest against the methods of Dublin Castle, in which even the press of England joined … The circumstances attending the suppression of the newspaper and the subsequent negotiations over its resumption of publication constitute a chapter of English history in Ireland that reflects little credit on the present administration.”

As mentioned at the top, Guest’s full story can seen by clicking the linked headline. The Freeman’s Jan. 28, 1920, editorial cartoon about the suppression, referenced by Guest, can be viewed here via the National Library of Ireland’s (NLI) Shemus Cartoon Collection. More on the history of the Freeman’s Journal is available in this October 2019 guest post by Irish historian Felix Larkin, who also wrote the linked NLI collection description.

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